The Prime Minister said the UK would not abandon Libya as he maintained his decision to send British military forces to the north African country in 2011 was the “right thing to do”.
Militants loyal to “Islamic State” have heightened concerns they could establish a stronger presence in the area after they beheaded 21 hostages, who were all Coptic Christians from Egypt, on a Libyan beach.
It is feared the political uncertainty and violent power struggles in the north African country are the worst seen since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011.
Speaking in Hove, Mr Cameron told reporters: “On the question of abandoning Libya, there’s no question of Britain abandoning Libya.
“Britain is giving Libya support through our aid budget. We did a major training project for the Libyan security forces. We are doing work to try and bring together a national unity government in Libya.
“But of course what we face in Libya is a very difficult situation with far too many armed militias, without a proper government and with the growth of ungoverned space, and we’ve had the appalling events of the last few days with the brutal, senseless murders of Coptic Christians on the beach, which I know has shocked the whole world.
“I discussed it yesterday with the president of Egypt and what the whole world needs to do is come together and work for a Libya that has a national unity government, obviously excluding terrorists, and that can start to build the institutions of a state.
“Do I regret that Britain played our role in getting rid of Gaddafi and coming to the aid of that nation when Gaddafi was going to murder his own citizens in Benghazi? No I don’t.
“It was the right thing for Britain to do. Gaddafi was no friend of our country – the Semtex given to the IRA has done a huge amount of damage in our country.
“Libya, Britain and the world are better off without Gaddafi but we have to do as much as we can now with, I hope, a willing Libyan population and politicians to try and bring that national unity government together – but it has been very hard work.”
Egypt’s president has called for a United Nations-backed coalition to rid Libya of Islamist militants. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, speaking to France’s Europe 1 Radio, said Egyptian air strikes against “Islamic State” positions in Libya were in self-defence.
Mr el-Sissi, a general-turned-politician, told the radio channel: “We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children.”
Asked whether he wanted to see a UN-backed coalition for Libya, he said: “I think there is no choice.”
Mr el-Sissi said: “We have abandoned the Libyan people as prisoners of the militias. The militias have to give up their arms and must work in a civil context. We have to disarm and prevent arms from falling into the hands of extremists.
“What happened is a crime, a monstrous terrorist crime that our children have their throats cuts in Libya and not to react. It’s a kind of self-defence accepted by the international community.”
The Egyptian attacks drew harsh criticism from Omar al-Hassi, the militia-supported prime minister in Tripoli.